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BPAL - Aglaea, Phantasm, Siren

I've gone and done it - I ordered Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab imps (little samples that BPAL calls "imp's ears" and that everyone who has this hobby seems to call just imps). BPAL sells strangely named perfume oil blends, and just reading the descriptions on the website is a total kick.

Anyway, there's a delicious and slightly absurd element of ritual (my sister called it that, when I described it to her) in the way one tests these things. That's not to say everyone does it this way, but wotthehell, I can see the point of it, and maybe it will eventually help me learn to detect some of these scented ingredients, so I'm gonna do the whole in-the-bottle, on-the-skin, drydown thing. And I'm going to give them points out of 10, which is something I've seen done on several blogs with BPAL reviews.

Aglaea - Splendor (7/10)
Three golden ambers, bright musk, peach wine and myrtle.

note - irritating to broken skin

  • in bottle: intensely sweet, like peach candy
  • on skin: still very sweet, but warm and powdery notes (possibly amber and musk?) emerging
  • drydown: faint, sweet amber with spicy undertone

I liked this, but not to wear, myself, as perfume. I gave it to the Young Lady. I think maybe I should try some more amber-ish stuff.

Phantasm (7/10)
Green tea, lemon verbena, jasmine and neroli.

  • in bottle: sweet, lemony, pleasant yet piercing
  • on skin: similar but more floral/herbal
  • drydown: faint, interesting scent ... can't decide whether I like it, but I kept wanting to sniff it

Pretty, but not very long-lasting. Some people have called the initial scent "Lemon Pledge," but it's nicer than that.

Siren (6/10)
White ginger, jasmine, and a touch of vanilla and apricot.

  • in bottle: slightly sweet, pungent, and spicy
  • on skin: warm, sweet, spicy, vanilla increasingly apparent, slightly medicinal - almost like some sort of confection (smillaraaq was absolutely right about this - it's really like white chocolate goodie with fruit)
  • drydown: vanilla/floral only


I had also ordered Croquet, Zephyr, and La Belle au Bois Dormant, and they sent me Vampire Tears and Yew Trees as freebies. I tried the Croquet and Zephyr before I decided to get systematic, so I guess I'll have to try them again ... phooey, because I didn't like them that much (men's cologne and old-lady floral soap, respectively).

This makes me realize how lucky I have been with regular ol' perfumes ... Calyx, Escape (a little too sweet), and Acqua di Gio are my usual ones.


( 74 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 13th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
Mmmmm amber, my YES YES YES scent! Ambers that work well on me:

Jacob's Ladder 2006 (Xmas limited edition)

The Lion - amber and dry grass, which smells like the savanna to me and is therefore unique in being the only BPAL scent that actually matches its description. :D

Bakeneko (limited edition) - Smelled better when new; has aged into mostly just cinnamon.

Schwarzer Mond (another LE) - Unique in being the only one with patchouli as a major element that doesn't go head-shop on me.

Gypsy Queen (Carnaval Noir LE)


Brisingamen - Mmmmmmm. Soft fruity blossoms and warm amber.

Versailles - MMMMMMMM! Regal citrus and amber.

Megaera - Very close to Versailles
Nov. 13th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)

See, I didn't know I liked amber until I started playing with these!

The regular things I like are all called "fruity florals," but they're all light and fresh - so I was basing most of my choices on those. But I realize that I also love my Origins Ginger Souffle body creme stuff, which actually has a warm, spicy scent (despite the description on their site, which makes it sound all citrus-y ... yeah, there's citrus, but also tons of spices and eucalyptus and things ... ). So that might be another direction to go, amber and citrus and spices.

I keep expecting to get an allergic reaction from something on one of these, because regular perfumes frequently give me horrible headaches. But this small sampling hasn't given me anything like that yet.

Nov. 13th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, if spicy-and-fruity works for you, perhaps you might like Tenochtitlan? That one got swapped right away as it was a bit too fruity-sweet for me, but it definitely had some nice spiciness that *almost* was enough to counteract the fruit (but as you've seen in past reviews, I really prefer scents that are dry rather than sweet). It might be a little more on the rich side rather than light, though.

So far the only fruit-and-spice I've really liked was Gomorrah, as it was more of an earthy fruitiness (fig) rather than something sticky-sweet, and much much heavier on the spice. But that's one I'd definitely class as more of a spicy wintery heavy sort of scent rather than light and fresh.

Embalming Fluid or Shanghai might work very well for you on the light-clean-green tea side of things. (They made me very sad as I'd heard lots of raves about them, but both turned hideously soapy on my skin.)
Nov. 14th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)

I'm starting to get quite a list for my next shot at this!

I've seen both Embalming Fluid and Shanghai mentioned favorably. I can live with most of BPAL's funny names, but ... Embalming Fluid?

(no subject) - smillaraaq - Nov. 14th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Nov. 15th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 13th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC)
"Fruity florals" might be a good technical description of what works on me, because while straight apple and peach and cherry and plum tend not to, peach blossom, apple blossom, cherry blossom, and plum blossom all do. Or maybe that would be "floral fruits." :D
(no subject) - chomiji - Nov. 14th, 2007 03:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 13th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
Hee, you certainly don't have to be so finicky about testing them, but I just find it's rather fun to pay attention to how they change on the skin throughout the day. And it's not strictly a BPAL thing, as there are some general perfume blogs out there with reviewers who go into such detail that they'd put the average BPAL testing post to shame. :)

(And I will never understand the folks who just sniff stuff in the vial and reject scents based on that, because the bottle scent is often not at all an accurate reflection of what it will do once it's being worn!) Some of these scents can be very stable, others are rather mercurial in wear, and it can be rather amusing to track how they behave. Funnily enough I *almost* got La Belle au Bois Dormant in that last order focused on florals, as I'm curious as to how true their plumeria and tuberose notes seem -- definitely looking forward to hearing how that works out!

If you're fond of amber, in conventional fragrances you might want to check out Stella McCartney's stuff, which seem to be mostly amber-heavy florals -- I had a free sample of "Stella In Two" earlier this year which was nice, if not quite my thing -- alas, I've already passed it along to another amber-loving friend.
Nov. 13th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
Well, there's some scents I can tell won't work on me from a bottle-sniff. Mostly the ones that have enough jasmine or cedar in them to trip my allergic reactions. XD
Nov. 13th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)
Well, that makes sense, with all the blends they've got where their descriptions are so abstract that you don't know what the notes are until you get 'em...but I have seen so many people on the forums (and selling on eBay) who don't even seem to be doing that, they're just sniffing the imps and rejecting stuff based on that first impression, which seems a real waste. I'm just a relative dabbler and even so I could name so many scents I've tried so far that were blah in the bottle and wonderful on skin, or vice versa; and I can only think of a handful I've tried so far where what you smell in the bottle is a fair reflection of what it's like in actual wear.
Nov. 13th, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I've got a bunch of imps right now that I'm probably going to give the sniff-test too, but that's only because I've got so, so many to test. XD Oh - and I just remembered: I can often tell the intensity of the musk by a sniff-test, and darker musks go really awful on me, but midrange and lighter can sometimes be really nice, so sometimes I can tell that way if it won't work for me, but for the most part I need to test on the skin. :D
Nov. 13th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC)

I'm a big believer in individual body chemistry, so I can't see not trying them on the skin - unless the smell in the bottle is a complete turn-off (and I'm afraid that's what happened with most of the little paper samples you sent ... ).

See, I didn't know I liked amber. Also, at the moment, since I have some mainstream perfumes that I like, I'd rather play with these silly things! For one thing, I like supporting small businesses, when I can. For another, this is good for training my nose. My sniffer is pretty sensitive - I was always the housemate/roommate who had the dubious pleasures of sniffing things to see whether they'd gone bad and tracking down "what's making that awful smell!" - and it's nice to be using it for something pleasant!

Nov. 13th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC)
Ohoho, those things are addictive... I've got a bunch of them. My personal favorite is "Dee", which has a dusty leather and incense smell that makes me think of a medieval library. I've got a lot of the really sharp pines, herbals, and labdanums too. I stay away from the florals and berries because they're too girly... the only floral I've liked was "Envy", which smells a lot like hyacinths and other springlike green things. But I like BPAL perfumes because they usually have two or three notes that come through strongly and actually smell like *something*, unlike regular perfume where I can't place any of the scents so it comes off kind of chemical-y to me.
Nov. 13th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
I have got to try Dee one of these years, as incense scents so far seem to be one of my greatest BPAL weaknesses (and leather is a pretty good note on me, too). But Envy was so sharp-crisp-green on me that I really didn't even notice any floral coming through on my skin, it was much more sharp herbs and mint...
Nov. 13th, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
It's such a *nice* incense, too! It doesn't smell like a secondhand shop run by a hippie with a half-smoked joint dangling from his lips. *laugh* Ahh, I was hoping I'd get more of the sharp herbs and mint, but my skin chemistry made it really floral! (so anything that's intended to be floral is usually overpowering)
Nov. 13th, 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)
Heh, it's always amusing how variable these things are. I don't wear a lot of green fragrances and my experience with scents like Envy or La Belle Dame Sans Merci seem to show it's best that I stay away, they tend to get amped up to be almost too sharp to be bearable, beyond crisp to the point where they're downright astringent. I usually gravitate towards oriental/floriental scents in conventional stuff, and the occasional powdery floral aldehyde, so unsurprisingly a lot of my biggest BPAL faves have been heavy on the incense/spice/wood side of things.
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Nov. 13th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC)

And I never knew you were into this thing! Not in all the hours of talking we've done! (Which I think is wonderful ... people should be fractile-ish ... always another dimension to uncover, no matter how closely you look ... .)

The regular ol' perfumes I like are all classified as "fruity florals," but the fruits aren't really sweet - I guess they must be citrus things or melon or something. So I was trying things with those kinds of ingredients.

I know what you mean about "smelling like something." So many perfumes, to me, just smell like ... perfume. Who cares about something that smells like that?

The other inspiration I have for picking these things will be the two scented body lotions that I like - I had almost forgotten about them because I wear them (I alternate between them) only once the heat needs to be on. Thymes' "Green Tea" has tea, woody, and rose scents in it, and Origins "Ginger Souffle" has orange flower water, citrus, eucalyptus, and lots and lots of spices (mostly ginger, obviously).

Nov. 13th, 2007 11:47 pm (UTC)
I could have sworn we'd talked about these! *laugh* Well, welcome to another weird, fannish hobby!!

The only regular old perfume that I wear regularly is "Tea for Two" from L'Artisan, but the BPAL scents with similar notes (ginger, tea, more ginger) have been hit-or-miss because their ginger is so easily overwhelmed by whatever else is in there.

Yeah! Most perfumes are unidentifiable flowers + that weird alcohol/chemical bitterness (aldehyde, I guess) or so many things blended together that it smells like the equivalent of throwing the contents of your fridge into a blender and eating the resulting slurry. Er, maybe I just don't have a very sophisticated nose.

Have you ever tried the soaps and lotions from Lush? Lots of BPAL fans are into Lush too (and they do the same descriptive blogging!) I think they have a store in Bethesda. The soaps are so pretty too...
Nov. 14th, 2007 12:31 am (UTC)
Aldehydes are definitely an...artificial sort of smell, they were one of the first real synthetic notes that weren't trying to actually mimic anything found in nature, but they're not bitter or alcoholic per se -- that's probably just you smelling the alcohol used as a carrier in the usual EDT/EDC stuff. Aldehydes smell like...gah, it's hard to describe since they are so thoroughly artificial; "sparkly" is the term that seems to come up in the perfume blogs the most, or "powdery". I don't much care for really strong aldehyde scents like Chanel No. 5, but I do seem to gravitate to some of the soft-powdery floral aldehydes like Anna Sui.
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Nov. 14th, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)

(Oooh, nice Ginko icon!)

Hee! Caroline & I hit the new Lush at MoMall (Montgomery Mall, by the same process that rendered the late lamented Montgomery Donuts "MoDo's," and the county itself "MoCo") before all my surgery mess, when I needed some more soft bras. I got some nice facial stuff with avocado in it and then only used one hit of it before the pull-date ran out, and I got Care some lip balm. We had fun there. Lush is to neilgaimanboard what BPAL seems to be to my LJ crew, probably because there's a number of Candians on gaimanboard, and that's where it came from. And I have silly expensive Origins Ginger salt scrub to go with my body mousse, but it's very oily, so that might be something else to get at Lush next time.

I can't deal with multiple soaps in the shower (Karl & I share one), and I like mostly clean scents anyway, so we have a selection of gender-neutral soaps selected by a long series of hit-and-miss trials: Sudz "In the Pink" (which is grapefruit-y, and nowadays I have to buy it online), One With Nature "Dead Sea Salt" and "Coco-Walnut," Pre de Provence Agrumes (citrus blend), Crabtree & Evelyn Avocado, and various other things that I get at the co-op down the street or at Whole Foods.

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Nov. 13th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
Oh ...
Must Have!
Nov. 13th, 2007 10:25 pm (UTC)


This seems to be the hobby of geeky women ... I first ran into it on neilgaimanboard, when it came up because of the BPAL line of Neil Gaiman-inspired scents, but didn't even think of looking past that page until I realized how many of my LJ friends had this particular jones. smillaraaq finally pushed me over the edge! You can get 6 imps, plus a couple of freebies, for $20 ... .

Nov. 13th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC)
That's *four* people now who are blaming me for this, and I wasn't even trying! ;)
Nov. 14th, 2007 02:40 am (UTC)

Awwwww, there now! You just made it sound so friendly and approachable, that's all!


(no subject) - smillaraaq - Nov. 20th, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Nov. 22nd, 2007 03:08 am (UTC) - Expand
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Nov. 13th, 2007 11:51 pm (UTC)
If you really want to get weird about it, you can swap half-used imps and stuff on LJ comms like bpalmarketplace or sinandsalvation - then you can get all of those discontinued or rare ones without waiting for BPAL's slow shipping~ And people on those comms usually toss in a free imp or some candy or tea with your order, which is cool. (also, you can easily unload the stuff you didn't like and try new ones!)
Nov. 14th, 2007 12:10 am (UTC)
And there's always the swap/sale forums on bpal.org too -- one of my recent converts does a lot of swapping there. My collection is very very modest, though, so I've mostly just stuck to swapping with a handful of friends.
Nov. 14th, 2007 02:41 am (UTC)

Heh, I don't think I'm into it enough for that! (Not yet, anyway .... )


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